Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In Support of Educational Nationalism

Doesn’t that sound dangerous, “Educational Nationalism”? Doesn’t it create a mental picture of hordes of goose-stepping brainwashed soldierly-type devotees saluting some kind of icon while running over a lesser country?

It should be us, minus the goose-stepping and brainless stuff. Oh, and we shouldn’t run over any country. Ever. That’s not nice. Just ask France, it seems to happen to them every 22.5 years or so.

Seriously, I think this is a great time to have some national content standards. I’ve thought this way for a while. Why do we have 50 different versions of what is and what is not acceptable? Just think about it, America is the land of freedom—our students can fail (or pass) 50 different ways! 52 if you count Guam and DC.

Quickly put, this is an aftereffect of the global economy. Since trade barriers are for the most part lowering across the world, the best jobs will go where the best-educated people are, regardless of political boundaries. Trade is becoming more and more regional, yet we rise or fall as a nation.

We must get national standards, quickly, sensibly and civilly. Yes, yes, I know, there are many people who will say that national standards will “redefine the role of the federal government in education and transfer the locus of power from the local school districts to DC”. I don’t know about that. Yes, there are political implications, but I’m not really worried about that. That’s why I pay union dues.

But, it used to be that when I taught my kids, I’d warn them about the people in a different zip code that were competing for their slot in a local college-- now they’re competing with people in other countries. Same thing goes for jobs.

I remember a teacher when I was in high school that everyone wanted to get for a certain subject. Teacher A, quite frankly, wasn’t a good teacher; in fact, they were the opposite. Everyone wanted to take A’s class simply because they were easy. Everyone who came in, stayed for the whole class, didn’t cause problems and smiled at the teacher a couple of times a week got an “A”.

The other teacher in that subject was mean, and rigorous but fair. Teacher B made you work until your brains came out of your nose. Unluckily (at the time) got teacher B. I whined and whined, but neither my Principal or my Counselor changed the schedule. I didn’t get an A, but I did master the material and concepts contained within the class.

After graduation, my classmates who had teacher A came back from their first quarter of college overwhelmed in the subject; many had D’s, some had failed. I had earned (through blood sweat and tears) a B.

Do you want our students to be held to teacher A or teacher B’s standards?
Our students don’t compete as Californians, New Yorkers or Rhode Islanders—they compete in the global marketplace as Americans.

America needs national content standards.


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